Only Sleeping
by Soulstarsinger

He reaches out and strokes her cheek, gently, gently, not wanting to scratch that perfect skin with the scrapes and calluses that decorate his palm. So beautiful, so very beautiful. He still can't believe they let him take her, let him bring her here, to his place, his home.

He cocks his head to the side, studying her expression. She looks... she looks as though she's waiting for something. Maybe a handsome prince to kiss her and wake her from her sleep. He starts to lean forward, then checks, snorting derision at himself. If anything could wake her, it wouldn't be him, he's sure. Even though he wishes more than anything it could be.

"There now, love," he whispers, as if he might disturb her "you sleep peacefully. You've earned it." And he reaches out his thumb to brush across her eyelids, just to make sure.

When he'd first brought her home, just hours, or maybe years, ago, he'd been tempted to open her eyes, just to see them one last time. But he'd shrunk from the emptiness he knew he'd find behind her lids. He didn't want to remember her like that. She should be laughing, lively, deadly and strong. Or as she is now, peaceful, relaxed, perfect in repose. Sleeping, just sleeping, that's all.

He wonders, how hard would it be to wake her again. Not that hard, he's sure - he knows it's possible, after all. But the person who could help... well, he's hardly likely to be helping Spike again. Has almost certainly left town, anyway. No, he'll have to do the best he can himself, just patch her up, let her sleep. She's so beautiful when she's sleeping.

He still can't believe they let him take her, let him bring her here. To his place, his home. He wonders, will they come and take her away again. They might. He needs to make the most of the time he has. Perhaps they couldn't bear to see the shell of her, perhaps that was it, where he couldn't bear not to see her, had to have her, needs her with him, has to take care of her.

Tenderly, he threads his hands through her hair, his eyes flinching away from the clumsily patched gash on the side of her face and head. He'd have to redo that dressing... make it smaller, neater. It isn't as if she'd bleed, after all. He wonders why he does, since he has no heartbeat, either.

His fingers catch in a tangle and he freezes, foolishly not wanting to hurt her even though he knows she can't feel it. Carefully he extricates himself, then stands and moves across the room. He was sure.... ah yes. Harmony hadn't taken all her things. He finds a brush, tugs out the hairs that clutter its bristles. He hopes she won't mind him using Harm's things on her. They're all he has, unless he goes shopping for her at sundown. He thinks she'll understand.

He lifts her head, oh so carefully, fans her hair out on the stone surface (not a tomb, never a tomb for her) around her head, and begins to brush, smoothing out the knots and tangles, fascinated by how it shines, even in the dim light of the crypt. He wonders briefly if she'd like him to braid her hair, to keep it neat while she sleeps, like he used to do for Drusilla. But no, that would draw attention to the scars, and she likes to be pretty, likes to hide the bumps and bruises away from sight where she can.

He can't believe they let him take her, let him gather her broken body up in his arms in the aftermath of the original shock, the first wave of overwhelming grief; let him scramble over the rubble to get to her, didn't make a move to stop him. Just all stood there and watched with variations on the same bleak, anguished expression, without a sound but the odd hitching and gulping that some of them - all of them, he couldn't tell - would overflow into.

Didn't even do or say anything, when, clutching her to his chest he'd realised the sun was risen, and croaked,


Didn't even seem to blink between them, until Tara - how did she know? - pointed and stuttered,

"O-o-over there."

Didn't speak, didn't budge from their spots. Just watched him go. The only movement save his came from little Dawn, whose legs chose that moment to give out on her. And they just let him go with his precious armful, down the sewer entrance, and eventually to his crypt. He can't believe someone wasn't waiting, for a second even saw the illusion of the soldier boy in the shadows. But there was no-one there but him, and her, both as battered and dead as each other.

"What a pair we make, eh, love?" he'd murmured as he'd set her down, dragged out the first aid box, and begun to bind her wounds.

And now she was clean and beautiful - more beautiful - again, albeit dressed in one of his shirts. He thought she'd prefer that to wearing something of Harm's. And he realises how tired he is, how bone-and-heart-achingly tired. She looks so peaceful, just sleeping there, and he pulls himself up beside her and lays down. Carefully, so he doesn't disturb her neatly arranged limbs, he curls his body around hers, tucking her head under his chin, and wrapping one arm around her waist.

Her skin is no warmer or cooler than his, he realises, and he strokes his free hand down her cheek once more. Propping himself up slightly, he frowns slightly as he realises that the bandage around her neck has slipped slightly, revealing the black of the thick electrical tape that was the only thing he could find to fix on her head. Pulling the bandage back up, he presses a kiss to her forehead and closes his eyes. He can't believe they let him take her, but he needs her. She looks so beautiful when she sleeps.


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